#pAutomator Alex Rodrigues, Instrumentation Technician at Emerson Automation Solutions
It’s a pleasure to have a friend of mine here! I studied with Alex in technical school, then we worked together at JAT and Emerson! We learned a lot of things together as well as from each other. Our experiences are similar, but I focused on communication, handhelds, valves, and stuff. Alex was more into meters.
He traveled around Brazil visiting different customers to learn their pain points and solve their device issues. He also worked for a long time in the workshop, receiving devices from customers around Brazil, finding problems, repairing them, and answering questions.
Professional work on the vendor side is different from industry work. Usually, vendor pros become experts on devices to solve advanced issues better than field techs. On the industry side, field techs and engineers focus on keeping the plant producing efficiently, so they have much broader areas of expertise.
Let’s learn more about Alex’s work, how he started in automation, the challenges, and so on! Hope you can learn as much as I did from this conversation.
Thank you for being here, Alex! We appreciate you sharing your experience with Visaya’s readers! Let’s talk about how you began your career. Why did you choose instrumentation, where did you study, and what were your first experiences in the field?
First of all, thank you for the opportunity! Actually, automation was my second option. My first choice was automotive mechanics. Life is tricky sometimes! I studied process automation at SENAI Santos, a famous technical school in Brazil. My first field experience was at JAT Instrumentação at Rhodia Poliamida, where we calibrated pressure and temperature transmitters. This work required me to use a lot of things I learned in technical school. I’ve worked for nine years in process automation at JAT instrumentação, Pepperl+Fuchs, and Emerson Automation Solutions so far!
In your first company, you worked with different types of field service and brands in many segments. What did you learn from this experience?
JAT Instrumentação gave me a chance not only to put into practice everything I learned before but also to acquire more detailed knowledge. I did technical analyses of devices from pressure meters to control valves. I also calibrated positioners, transmitters, stuff like that. We worked with all kinds of brands, so I learned a lot about my current competitors 🙂
You’ve worked for a long time in Emerson’s service center. What has it taught you about repairing devices? Would you say problems remain the same, or you are constantly finding new issues?
Working in a service center as significant as Emerson’s teaches me new things every day! We always see new devices coming up, so we’re the first to learn how to install, set up, and repair this tech. I even learn from products I don’t work with directly, and this fact is amazing! For me, the coolest thing about working at the service center is that problems are never the same. You’ll always find something unexpected, forcing you to learn more and study harder. Everything is very dynamic!
Now, let’s talk about your time at Pepperl+Fuchs. What did you do there and what do you remember best?
At Pepperl+Fuchs I developed technical reports for DP/PA couplers, intrinsic barriers, HART multiplexers, etc. I also supported FOUNDATION Fieldbus (FF) and HART network diagnostics, installed and set up plant asset management systems, and did some device setups. Pepperl+Fuchs was a good school for field networks. I learned a lot about FF, PROFIBUS PA, As-i, DeviceNet, and Ethernet. Now at Emerson, I answer questions about field networks because some of my clients have PROFIBUS PA Coriolis flow meters in their sugar plants.
Okay, so analog still rules most field applications! In your opinion, why have digital protocols taken so long to catch on? What’s your opinion about protocols such as EtherNet-IP, PROFINET, and wireless?
I know field techs are shy to deploy new tech because they have to change what works for promises of new advantages with little information. The risk makes it difficult to jump into new tech quickly. I visited plenty of customers, and most of them say the same thing! Also, most end users don’t have technical knowledge of the protocols available on the market. Some even downgrade their tech to come back to a comfortable zone.
In my point of view, new digital protocols should help daily activities, not increase problems. However, companies need to invest in training their technical groups to handle this new tech. At SENAI, I heard that wireless only monitors applications. This is not a fact, but people believe it! Eventually, our industries will deploy those technologies.
Today, you work at Emerson! What are your daily tasks and main activities internally and externally?
I’m a technical expert in Coriolis, vortex, and magmeter flow meters! Basically, I do technical reports, laboratory calibration, and external service for on-shore and off-shore plants. I’m also developing expertise to support Roxar products, the outer and inline corrosion analyzers.
What are the main issues you find in flow meters? Do users know how to correctly install them and solve problems?
There is a huge lack of knowledge for flow meters. For instance, 80 percent of my Coriolis cases occur because of mismatches between devices and processes. Bubbles win the “Error in Flow Measurement” crown. Sometimes I have to convince customers that they bought the wrong devices for their processes, which gets complicated.
How does working for a vendor differ from working in the industry?
You have positive things from both sides! In an industry, you get a lot of knowledge related to the process, and you learn a little from different brands and devices that you handle every day. With a vendor, you have faster access to new technology. You get in-depth knowledge of the devices, making you an expert in solving problems with them.
What do you recommend for the new generation beginning careers in process automation?
Same as when I started my career! You need to study a lot, mainly the new technology, and don’t fear the new things that come up faster and faster. The internet offers a ton of good content, so search, study, and then deploy what you’ve learned.
FOUNDATION Fieldbus or PROFIBUS?
Field calibration or lab?
Ethernet or wireless?
Field or repair bench?
Alex, thanks so much for sharing your experience with us! I’m sure you’ll inspire new professionals in this area! See you next time I visit Brazil!
Thank you! See you around!